„Faith” is a fantasy drama loosely based on historical events. The events depicted take place in the first half of the 14th century in Goryeo (present Korean Peninsula), which was a vassal state of the Mongol Yuan Dynasty. The current Empress of the Yuan Empire, Empress Ki, is a Goryeo woman, a descendant of Ki – a Goryeo military aristocratic family.
During a rebellion she was captured and sent to Yuan as tribute (slave). She marries the emperor and later becomes the de facto ruler of the Yuan Empire. In order to maintain the semi-autonomous status of their country, the Goryeo heirs to the throne (the crown princes) were required to go live in the Yuan imperial court. Although they were officially guests and were treated as such, they were in fact hostages. As a sign of allegiance to the Yuan Dynasty, it was customary for a Goryeo crown prince to marry a Mongolian princess as the Queen of Goryeo.
After the death of his brother (who stole the throne from his underage nephew), the 21 years old King Gongmin is returning to his country (after living in Yuan for 11 years) with his Mongolian bride, Queen Noguk. The two do not have a harmonious relationship, since he sees the Yuan Dynasty as an oppressor of the Goryeo people.
The brother of Empress Ki, Ki Chiul, is terrorizing the Goryeo ruling aristocracy in the absence of a king (the previous king died and the current king’s envoy has not reached Goryeo yet). He plans to ambush the envoy, kill the Mongolian Princess and provoke a conflict between the Yuan Dynasty and the Goryeo royal family, which, if successful, would lead to the deposition of the king. By doing so, Ki Chul hopes to become the founder of a new dynasty and rule Goryeo.
Important note: Empress Ki is a well-documented historical character. However, there is no historical evidence of her brother attempting to usurp the throne.
On the way to the capital of Goreyo, the king’s envoy witnesses a strange phenomenon. The royal adviser tells the king that the phenomenon is the door to the heavenly world. According to the legend, the heavenly doctor, Hwa Ta, who could cure every illness, returned to the heaven through the heavenly gate.
The King Gongmin’s envoy is ambushed and the Queen is wounded. Desperate and worried for the future of his country, the king orders the captain of the royal guards, Choi Young, to go through the „heaven’s gate” and bring back a healer from heaven to cure the queen.
Choi Young travels through the gate (a wormhole caused by solar flares) into the future. Here he encounters a doctor, Yoo Eun-Soo. He kidnaps her and brings her with him into the past. He gives her his word as a Goryeo warrior that he would take her back. Eun-Soo saves the life of the queen but the gate disappears and she remains trapped into the past.
Eun-Soo becomes entangled with the royal family in their battle against Ki-Chiul for the survival of Goryeo.
General Choi Young is a very famous general in Korean history and a national hero. He fought over 30 wars. Choi is of noble origin. He is the son of a well-known aristocratic scholar. In the beginning of the series he is the captain of the royal guards. He is 29 years old and has yet to make a name for himself.
Choi is torn between the loyalty to the king and the promise he made to Eun-Soo, but he is unable to keep his word and is willing to repay his debt with his life.
Important note: historical documents talk highly of General Choi. He only valued bravery and virtue, while despising honors and wealth. The historical records have it that he once said „gold is mere pebbles”.
Yoo Eun-Soo: she is a modern day doctor who dreams about opening her own clinic. She finds herself trapped into the past and attempts to adjust to her new environment under the protection of general Choi. She is thrilled to realize that she is given the chance to witness one of the most important events of the Goryeo era. However, she will try to find a way to return home.
King Gongmin: while in Yuan he met the queen before they got married and fell in love with her, thinking she is a Goryeo noble woman. She conceals her identity from him, fearing he might despise her. After learning the truth and being forced to marry her, Gongmin feels betrayed and ashamed to have wasted feelings for the daughter of the enemy. In time he will witness her genuine feelings and her loyalty towards him and her new country.
Queen Noguk is the daughter of the emperor of Yuan. Her family wants to use her to keep the new Goryeo king under control. But her allegiance is with her husband, towards whom she has genuine feelings. Thus, she offers her unconditional support in order to restore the independence of Goryeo.
Ki-Chiul: although the historical documents do mention the existence of a brother of Empress Ki, his character in this series is entirely fictional. He is lusting for power and has no scruples.
„Faith” is not a historical drama, but a fusion drama. It blends historical facts with creative literature and elements of magic and fantasy. In the series, several characters (including the hero of the story, general Choi) have magic powers. Some can handle Fire, others can control Sound-waves. Ki-Chiul has the power of Ice, while Choi Young possesses the inner power of Thunder.
The fantasy element is a very interesting addition to the story and is in no way overwhelming throughout the series.
„Faith” is an easy to watch drama. It has everything in it: love and loyalty, brotherhood and camaraderie, deceptiveness and ambition for power. However, this is not a soap opera. You won’t be put through the pains of watching sappy or cheesy love scenes. The fantasy, action, romance and political games blend together and one does not overpower the other. Moreover, the two love stories grow naturally, are gradual and mature.
Lee Min-Ho („City Hunter”, „Legend of the Blue Sea”) has done a terrific job as General Choi Young. I would dare say one of his best roles to date.
Kim Hee-Sun („Angry Mom”) was a great choice for the role. There were some voices saying they should have casted a younger actress, because her character should be younger than general Choi. I think she was the perfect choice. She is convincingly portraying a 21th century bright and independent carrier woman who was unwillingly trapped into the past. Nonetheless she tries to make the best of the situation without succumbing to the damsel-in-distress syndrome.
The rest of the cast did an amazing job as well. Some special mentions: Yu Oh-Seong in the role of the power-hungry Ki Chiul (“Are You Human?“) and Kim Mi-Kyung as general Choi’s aunt and court lady. You can find her in almost every major drama („Master’s Sun”, „Yong-Pal”, „Healer” etc.). She is the queen of supporting roles.
The soundtrack of this series is actually an album. There is a theme song almost for every actor and every type of situation. The main theme, „Carry On”, interpreted by Ailee, has topped several musical charts in Korea.
This drama had a low compared to other Korean drams and we can notice it in the set, lighting and sometimes sound. For example, in the indoor scenes we can hear a light echo and the sound of footsteps give away the fact that the floor is hollow. But these are mere details compared with the powerhouse actors and the compelling story.
Without a doubt there are many dramas out there which outperformed Faith. But, for some reason, Faith is like one of those songs that you can’t get enough of, you have it on repeat and put it on all your playlists. Great re-watchable value.